How Rockets fared at 2022 NBA summer league


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With the NBA’s 2022 summer league officially in the books, we’re taking a look back at the performances of the young Houston Rockets.

The Rockets went 2-3 in Las Vegas, though it should be noted that they were 2-1 with a complete roster. They finished 0-2 after shutting down leading scorer Josh Christopher (right hip soreness) midway through.

Shooting struggles were a recurring issue. Of Houston’s nine rotation players, only two — Tari Eason and Daishen Nix — shot over 40% from the field. Nix was the only player to break 35% on 3-pointers.

Yet, the Rockets were still competitive throughout summer league play thanks in large part to their defense, which was spearheaded by the rookie duo of Eason and Jabari Smith Jr. in the frontcourt. Houston had hoped going in to also have second-year forward Usman Garuba as a defensive anchor, but he was unable to play due to injury.

Scroll on for 2022 summer league statistics, player grades, highlights, and key takeaways involving Houston’s nine consistent rotation players in Las Vegas: Christopher, Eason, Nix, Smith, TyTy Washington, Anthony Lamb, Trevor Hudgins, Trhae Mitchell, and Aric Holman. Grades are relative to realistic expectations for each player going in.

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Josh Christopher

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Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Bio: 6-foot-5 guard, 20 years old, 1 year of NBA experience, on standard multi-year rookie contract with Rockets

Statistics: 19.7 points (39.6% FG, 12.5% on 3-pointers), 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 1.7 steals, 1.7 blocks in 26.8 minutes

Grade: B-

Takeaways: Statistically, Christopher was inefficient, and the second-year guard was frequently criticized by fans on social media for not passing the ball enough on his drives. Yet, Houston’s 0-2 showing without Christopher should be a reminder of the tough position he was put in.

Christopher was the only player on the roster capable of consistently creating his own offense, which led to defenses committing more resources to slow him down. Another factor in that low shooting percentage was having to take forced shots late in the shot clock, which his teammates didn’t often do due to their limitations with shot creation.

That’s not to say that it was a great showing. There were absolutely moments where Christopher needed to make better reads and kick the ball out to an open teammate on those drives into the paint, and summer league head coach Rick Higgins openly acknowledged it. But many of the issues were simply structural. Christopher should be a better fit in the regular season as a secondary creator and slasher alongside at least one primary creator like Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., or Alperen Sengun.

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Jabari Smith Jr.

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Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Bio: 6-foot-10 forward, 19 years old, no NBA experience, on standard multi-year rookie contract with Rockets

Statistics: 14.4 points (37.7% FG, 25.9% on 3-pointers), 9.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.4 blocks in 29.7 minutes

Grade: B+

Takeaways: Smith was dynamic defensively, but he simply didn’t make enough shots on offense. That said, he has a very long track record as an elite shooter, so that’s likely to correct itself over time. He should also get cleaner looks when playing alongside additional shot creators like Green, Porter, and Sengun on Houston’s regular-season roster.

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Tari Eason

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Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Bio: 6-foot-8 forward, 21 years old, no NBA experience, on standard multi-year rookie contract with Rockets

Statistics: 17.2 points (44.7% FG, 33.3% on 3-pointers), 10.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 1.6 assists in 27.5 minutes

Grade: A

Takeaways: Eason was a monster, defensively, which we expected based on draft scouting reports. But he was also Houston’s second-leading scorer, trailing only Christopher, and at least capable on 3-pointers. At 21 years old and with two major college seasons under his belt, Eason is physically more ready for the NBA than many other Rockets rookies in recent years, and he’s likely to make an immediate push for playing time.

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Daishen Nix

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Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Bio: 6-foot-5 guard, 20 years old, 1 year of NBA experience, on standard multi-year contract with Rockets

Statistics: 13.4 points (45.3% FG, 45.0% on 3-pointers), 4.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 2.6 turnovers, 1.6 steals in 27.5 minutes

Grade: B

Takeaways: Now in his second NBA season, Nix was a capable floor general who played a key role in organizing offense during Houston’s wins over Oklahoma City and San Antonio. He was also a better-than-expected 3-point shooter and clearly led the Rockets from deep. It’s possible that he opens the 2022-23 season as Houston’s backup point guard.

But Nix’s 45.5% showing on free throws, which comes after shooting 56.0% from the stripe in the G League last season, is alarming. After all, the potential of Nix driving to collapse defenses will be greatly reduced if defenses know they can simply foul him and mitigate the threat. It might also make him more tentative to attack the paint.

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Nix did suffer from occasional “tunnel vision” over the final two games, but as with Christopher in the first three, that can be attributed in part to being one of the roster’s only shot creators. Consider the context.

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TyTy Washington

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Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Bio: 6-foot-3 guard, 20 years old, no NBA experience, on standard multi-year rookie contract with Rockets

Statistics: 9.4 points (37.5% FG, 30.0% on 3-pointers), 3.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 1.4 turnovers in 26.5 minutes

Grade: B

Takeaways: In the battle for Houston’s backup point guard spot next season, a tie between Washington and Nix will likely go to the veteran, since there’s more for Washington to learn in the G League than there would be for Nix. In summer league, it largely felt like a draw.

Nix was a better shooter and a more creative passer, but Washington had the edge in free-throw shooting and avoiding turnovers.

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Anthony Lamb

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Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Bio: 6-foot-6 forward, 24 years old, 2 years of NBA experience, unrestricted free agent

Statistics: 3.0 points (31.6% FG, 21.4% on 3-pointers), 3.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists in 17.0 minutes

Grade: F

Takeaways: Let’s be blunt: Even in a small sample, a 24-year-old player with NBA experience in two different seasons shouldn’t have looked this bad versus summer league competition. Higgins and the staff clearly lost confidence in Lamb as summer league progressed, as evidenced by him playing fewer minutes and losing his starting role.

The Rockets can and should get a player with more upside for a two-way contract slot (what Lamb had in 2021-22) next season.

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Trevor Hudgins

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Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Bio: 6-foot-0 guard, 23 years old, no NBA experience, on two-way contract with Rockets

Statistics: 5.4 points (28.6% FG, 29.2% on 3-pointers), 1.6 assists, 1.4 rebounds, 1.0 steals in 19.3 minutes

Grade: C

Takeaways: The shooting numbers are poor, though it’s worth emphasizing both the small sample and the enormous jump from Division II college basketball to playing against legitimate NBA talent.

Hudgins is on a two-way contract, so the Rockets clearly have some interest in him beyond summer league. But at 6-foot-0, he needs to shoot well to eventually stick at the NBA level. The sample is way too small to draw any conclusions about his ability to do that, but the Rockets will undoubtedly hope to see more in training camp and the 2022 preseason.

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On a more positive note, Hudgins shot 3-of-4 on 3-pointers (75.0%) and had the best plus/minus (+16) of any player in the game during Houston’s narrow summer league victory over the Thunder last weekend.

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Trhae Mitchell

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Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Bio: 6-foot-6 forward, 24 years old, no NBA experience or contract

Statistics: 2.6 points (35.7% FG, 12.5% on 3-pointers), 2.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists in 18.8 minutes

Grade: C

Takeaways: Mitchell got more minutes after Christopher’s departure, but he didn’t particularly take advantage. As with other Rockets role players, subpar shooting was a recurring theme. That said, his defense had real promise, and he likely showed enough to be of interest again to Houston’s G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Vipers. Last season, Mitchell was a valued rotation player as RGV won the G League title.

Aric Holman

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Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Bio: 6-foot-9 forward, 25 years old, no NBA experience or contract

Statistics: 6.2 points (34.5 FG, 22.2% on 3-pointers), 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks in 12.7 minutes

Grade: C+

Takeaways: The Rockets are searching for backup center depth, and Holman showed flashes as a rim protector. Statistically, 1.2 blocks and 4.0 rebounds per 12.7 minutes is impressive. Yet, with a slender frame, he needs to shoot better from the perimeter for his profile to work.

As with other players, the summer sample is too small to draw any definitive conclusions regarding Holman’s shooting numbers. But when factoring in his advanced age (25) and lack of NBA experience to date, it would be a reach to expect him to factor into plans with the Rockets next season. He could potentially be an option with the Vipers, though.

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